In a person’s life, people have many who influence their lives, whether it may be shaping the way an individual speaks, the way they act, or think. However the person’s ability to break down these influences is through their psychological processes, the way in which an individual’s basic psychological functions work together in order to form the complexities of human behavior and purpose. In the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, by the Irish poet, Oscar Wilde, the characters live in a world of hedonism and aestheticism in which both co-exists with the conflicting ideals of morality.
The psychological approach is a form of literary analysis that interprets and analyzes the relationship and reasoning behind the motives of the characters in the novel. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde reveals Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory by individually identifying the Id, Ego, and Superego as specific characters portrayed in the novel. This portrayal illustrates the human nature and the inevitability of balancing the three fundamental structures of the mind to function in a way that is deemed acceptable to society and to one’s self. In the beginning, when Dorian was in the garden with Lord Henry, it was already apparent that Lord Henry is representative of the Ego, the impulsive, drives run by primal instincts to satisfy hedonistic needs.
Listening to the words of Lord Henry, Dorian recognizes the extraordinary power of beauty and youth in the portrait and is then distraught by the thought of it disappearing. On page 28, Dorian expresses his envy of the beautiful figure in the painting “If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture was to grow old! For that-for that- I would give everything!” Soon after Lord Henry’s convincing words on youth and beauty, he influences Dorian to make the wish of switching fate with the painting. Lord Henry’s lack of moral compass overpowers Dorian’s seemingly softer nature, ultimately driving Dorian away from moral qualities of regret and empathy.
As for Basil, he acts as the superego, who ultimately tries to pull Dorian away from sinfulness and rebelliousness in order to keep him innocent and pure. Basil shows his strong beliefs in morality, truth, and purity, which contradicts with Lord Henry’s immorality that exemplifies the irrational qualities of id. On page 6, “You never say a moral thing and you never do a wrong thing your cynicism is simply a pose.” said Basil “ Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.” said Lord Henry. The difference between Basil and Henry, is that Basil believes that people are inherently good, and that Lord Henry’s cynicism is just a mask. Henry, on the other hand, is more suspicious of others.
Especially people who pretend to be upfront all the time. The tone of the two also exemplifies the difference in their ability to be reserved in serious situations, which are representative of the qualities of Id and Superego. In the novel, Dorian represents the balance between the id and the superego, in which this case is Lord Henry and Basil. While Lord Henry constantly manipulates Dorian to commit acts of self fulfillment, Basil attempts to lead Dorian away from the path of immorality. Dorian experiences the push and pull between the immorality and rationality of the id and superego. After the announcement of Sibyl’s death Dorian experiences guilt and is conflicted over Sibyl’s death.
However, according to Lord Henry, Sibyl’s death should be considered a beautiful achievement, something that Dorian should be proud of. As a result, Dorian ultimately loses to the morality of superego in terms of morally and emotionally. The death of Sibyl mark’s the point in which Dorian’s morals and rationality spirals into sin and ultimately leads to his eventual death.
The novel repetitively uses themes of art and beauty which represents art’s nature of being interpreted. Just like so, the psychological approach is a form of literary analysis that interprets and analyzes the purpose behind the motives of the various characters in the novel. In addition to this, Freud’s theory analyzes the effect that modern psychology has on literature and places Dorian Gray in a psychological context.
Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories help give a better understanding of satisfaction, sexuality, and the unconscious. Through the lens of the psychoanalytic theory, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray receives help in providing a representation of the consequences and sacrifices one may face if one fails to balance the three parts of the human mind. The reader is met with the troubled mind of a man instead of being met with an average gothic novel. The story of Dorian’s troubled, wicked mind, is mirrored by the painting that portrays his ever decaying psychological state instead of his physical state. This leads the reader to believe that the pursuit for unrestricted pleasures ends only in destructio